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"Blind Date"

I am slowly sussing out the limitations of how I post to this website (and, of course, my own limitations as a blogger, which are mainly a time constraint). This post’s subject, for instance, has already had rave reviews published in the Toronto Star and elsewhere, and consequentially, Rebecca Northan’sBlind Date” is just about sold out for this Friday and Saturday’s performances. Does this mean I should be posting with more advance notice for hot shows? I’ll get into this in more detail in tomorrow’s update, but for now, let’s focus on the winsome lady with the red nose pictured below…

Mimi (Rebecca Northan) won't be sitting alone for long; she has full houses to choose a date from until Saturday in "Blind Date" @ the Harbourfront Centre.

Tonight (Thursday) is your best shot at getting a ticket to see how this talented improviser and clown manages to create 90 minutes of captivating entertainment with just herself and a “date” chosen from the audience; a date whose only essential selection criteria is that he’s NOT an actor. There is some pre-selection, hence the 7pm doors for the 8pm show; in that first hour, potential dates are screened and vetted, while the audience enjoys a pre-show cocktail at the venue’s wine bar. But there’s no advance planning, and whichever volunteer Mimi pulls up to replace her no-show blind date will be going in with no idea of just how the “date” will turn out.

More about Mimi’s romantic escapades below the e-fold…)

Why not? Mimi prepares to embark on a date with a volunteer picked from the audience.

Why not? Mimi prepares to embark on a date with a volunteer picked from the audience.

“Blind Date” began as a short comedy piece at the Spiegeltent’n'Tavern burlesque and vaudeville show that played at the Harbourfront Centre in the summer of 2007. Northan quickly realized that the audience becomes strongly invested in the show because the stand-in date is “one of them”; in essence, her selected date represents them, and Mimi’s date is actually a date with the audience altogether.

While the audience is along for the ride, they don’t get to dictate how the date progresses; those choices are made by the volunteer on stage, and by Northan, who bears a heavy responsibility to ensure that both her date and the audience are comfortable with how the date goes. A further hurdle crops up when her date has a date of his own in the house; she then has to ensure HIS date is comfortable with how far it goes on stage – and since the blind date pretty much always progresses past a first date (really, could you say no to her?), it can get intimate.

All this wouldn’t work were it not for Northan’s quick wit, immense likability, and a particularly well attuned sense of empathy with her non-performer volunteer and the audience, both of whom put their faith entirely in her to ensure that the evening is a comfortable and enjoyable experience; you could say the same for any theatre show, but rarely would it be so obviously uncomfortable for the crowd and the on-stage participant should a line be crossed.

Northan, who trained as an improviser under Keith Johnstone at the Loose Moose Theatre Company, and is an alumni of Second City, has been nominated for a Gemini, a Dora, and five Canadian Comedy Awards, and has TV credits for “Alice I Think” (CTV) and “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” (CBC) on her resume. An experienced teacher of improv, she’s also the co-creator of her husband’s Bruce Horak’s celebrated solo show “This is Cancer“, and has already performed this long form version of “Blind Date” in two runs in Calgary.

Here’s a video promo for “Blind Date”, if you’re still not convinced…

Blind Date” continues at the Harbourfront Centre to Saturday March 7th, with doors at 7pm, and the show at 8pm; tickets are $25, and are available through the Harbourfront Centre online or by phone at 416-973-4000. Both Friday and Saturday’s shows had less than a half dozen tickets available as of this morning, though…

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